Trigger finger is a common health concern in both the thumbs and hands. The condition affects the flexor tendons that help the fingers and thumb bend. Surrounding these tendons of soft, thick tissue is known as pulleys. The lining and tendon are both designed to be able to move smoothly along the pulleys without friction. They function in a way quite similar to the line on a fishing rod. Trigger fingers can be diagnosed by the symptoms, a physical exam, or the history of the condition. Only in rare cases will additional forms of diagnosis be required.
Understanding Trigger Finger And How It’s Treated
The medical name for trigger finger is stenosing tenosynovitis. The condition results from the tendons becoming enlarged and unable to pass smoothly through the pulley. Anytime a change in size results in either the tendon or the pulley, problems can occur. If left untreated, the condition can compound over time. The tendon will become tighter in the pulley, which squeezes the lining and causes it to thicken further. The more significant lining is then prone to producing additional fluid, leading to additional pressure. This whole process leads to further impaired function of the tendon. There are three typical underlying causes for stenosing tenosynovitis:
- Enlargement of the tendon
- Enlargement of the lining
- Thickening of the pulley
Several medical conditions can lead to trigger finger. Gout, diabetes, and people living with rheumatoid arthritis are at a greater risk of developing it. Catching it early can help address the severity before it worsens. Knowing the symptoms can help. Keep an eye out for the following:
- Pain – Sufferers report that their symptoms often start with discomfort at the base of the affected finger. This symptom can persist for some time before advancing. The pain is often intermittent, only occurring with gripping. The area will often not show pain symptoms when at rest. However, as the condition worsens, it can occur even when the hand is not used.
- Swelling – New symptoms may appear as time goes on. This often starts with a lump developing at the pulley. Nodular swelling within the tendon or the formation of a fluid-filled cyst is often to blame. These types of cysts are known as flexor sheath ganglions.
- Stiffness – Over time, there can be a loss of function in the affected finger. This will start with mild stiffness that can become worse over time. These joints are often painful to bend. Eventually, it’s possible to lose the ability to straighten or bend the finger beyond a set point.
These are the three most common symptoms of stenosing tenosynovitis. Others include strange sensations or movements of the finger. Locking, catching, and sufferers frequently report popping as examples of this.
How To Treat Stenosing Tenosynovitis
Treatments for trigger finger range from non-invasive to surgical. Non-invasive approaches include splinting at night, anti-inflammatories, steroid injection, hand therapy, and changes in activity. This last is effective when an underlying cause can be traced to repetitive forceful or sustained gripping as part of your daily activities. Your condition may call for surgical procedures in more severe cases. Reach your hand specialist to determine which approach is best suited for your case.